I used to live in this unwelcome world of comparison. I blame youthful ignorance and insecurities for the years I wasted trying to measure up to the immeasurable. We are never void of nearly perfect people, Pinterest ideas, and self-imposed unrealistic expectations from others or ourselves. It’s the image of the “ideal woman” who lurks in the closet of our minds who becomes our monster and measuring stick. And it’s the enemy of our souls who preys upon insecurities that seems so small, but often become boulder-size strongholds. We want to paint this as a uniquely feminine trait, but it’s not just women who wrestle with this. It’s everyone who listens to the nagging voice within instead of the voice of the Holy Spirit.
I found a passage of scripture in 2 Corinthians 10:7-12 that I began studying this summer that brought me such clarity and peace about the topic of comparison. Paul found himself being compared by his boldness in writing verses his weakness of speech. Sometimes “churchy” people are the worst at being quick to rip someone to shreds. In this case, Paul felt the sting from the words because after all he’s just a man redeemed from religiosity and baggage that met with Jesus and had his priorities rearranged by blindness, which allowed him to truly see the error of his ways. May we all have our moments of blindness that teach us how to see Jesus and tune our ears to hear His voice.
In verse 8 Paul is hesitant to boast in his apostolic authority, but he was called into question and criticized. And because of this, he had to defend himself.
“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” (Vs. 10)
These words made this deep thinker reflect, perhaps even hurt him in such a way that made him ask God why on earth He chose to use him in the first place. Even though Paul was criticized, this did not change the fact that he was called to change the world and be a voice for those who are better on paper with a dreadful past that needs redemption and grace. Sometimes it’s easier to be better on paper than we are in upfront moments when eager eyes are ready to pick apart our every move. But, it’s not about our fragile egos and that’s why we must keep going.
According to my study Bible, Paul’s “speaking ability was ridiculed by those who prided themselves on eloquence according to the standards of Greek rhetorical style.” So basically these were pompous, wordy people who were more concerned with rhetoric and “looking the part” rather than meaningful content and words that bring life and set the captives free. We are all chained and captive by comparison and already know what area we are found lacking and that is what makes us needy of a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Not for our glory, but pointing eyes to the one who longs to use the tender places in us that we only deem as weak and unusable.
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5 NKJV)
We are all standing in shoes we don’t feel qualified to stand in and yet we still stand because for some crazy reason we just know that we must. We stand scared with passionate prayers to do what we know God is asking us to do in the big and in the small things of life. We try to parent our children and tend to our parents in times of need feeling so small and frail knowing God’s grace is sufficient, and if all else fails, God will not because He cannot.
12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Cor 10:12 NKJV)
Whenever we compare ourselves, we are operating from an unwise place. We either measure up or we fall short, it becomes a tug-of-war distraction weakening our effectiveness and that’s exactly what the enemy wants. But when we measure ourselves against ourselves, we invite status quo and complacency. We can always look around and think that we are doing better than someone else and settle into monotony.
What God has asked of you may not look like anyone else’s role and yet we weaken its allure by saying, “It’s not enough, surely we could have a more important role.” But every season serves a beautiful purpose in becoming and we can’t have one season without the others. We can’t have our gorgeous fall without our summertime with sunshine on our face dripping with sweat, splashing, and giggles. The leaves turn glorious shades and give way to a brittle winter sending us inside with our faces pressed against frosty glass watching the snowfall. And sure, we all have our favorite seasons. And yet, life is so much sweeter when we just accept each season and welcome whatever it brings saying, “What do you want me to learn from this one, Abba?” And later, with hot tears streaming down our face we say something like, “Help me not to compare this season with one that made me happier and teach me to love myself even when I feel the furthest thing from fruitful and desirable.”
Thinking of you and praying that comparing yourself is no longer on your To-Do list today. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, so ask God to help you believe that and walk in the shoes that only you can fill. Comparison is baggage that will weigh you down and cripple you; I believe it’s time for comparison to no longer be a bag you continually carry. One way to unpack the baggage of comparison is to take those thoughts captive the moment it enters your mind.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:4-5)